TOKYO — Coaches for the U.S. men’s team looked at the times of their swimmers before Sunday and knew a world record in the 4×100 men’s medley relay was within reach.
And then Ryan Murphy, Michael Andrew, Caeleb Dressel and Zach Apple delivered, swimming in 3:26.78 at the Tokyo Olympics to break the 12-year-old record by .50 of a second.
The victory continued the Americans’ dominance in the event, having never lost the men’s medley relay at the Olympics. The only time they have not won gold was in 1980 when the entire team boycotted the Moscow Games.
And it also capped a remarkable Games for Dressel who won his fifth gold medal. He won gold in the 50-meter freestyle earlier in the day.
“We had a good spirited discussion amongst the men’s coaching staff yesterday to make sure we were putting the right four out there,” head coach Dave Durden said. “We looked at the splits of the world record and as we stopped for a second and thought about our guys on that relay, we kind of looked at each other said … we can do this.”
The relay opened with Murphy on backstroke, followed by Andrew, who finished his breaststroke leg with the Americans in second behind Great Britain. Dressel then regained the lead and Apple closed it out, anchoring the freestyle leg.
“We spent 14 months in isolation and doing the right thing and we trusted in each other,” Murphy said. “It’s just really special.”
Great Britain took the silver, finishing .73 behind the Americans. Italy took bronze.
“We sat down with our four guys and all we wanted them to do was swim at their level, and we knew that would produce a performance that would have a very good potential of breaking the world record,” Durden said. “And if we went faster than anyone else has ever gone, we were going to feel good about that.”
The U.S. finishes the swimming competition with more medals than any other country, including 30 overall and 11 golds. Australia won 20 overall and nine golds. Five years ago, at the Rio Games, the U.S. went home with 33 medals overall, including 16 golds.